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Workers of the world unite and go shopping
By Liu Wei (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-03 06:44

May Day has become a day for the world's working classes to show their solidarity with strikes and demonstrations.

In today's China, however, the main question on the lips of the urban masses at least, is whether one should stay at home, book into a resort or seek retail therapy.

The majority will use the holiday to rest, have fun and spend their hard-earned money. Many just want to avoid the jammed public transport system and packed holiday destinations.

An online poll by Sina.com shows nearly 66 per cent of voters prefer to stay at home during the so-called Golden Week.

And 80 per cent say they want to celebrate May Day by shopping.

And that's good news for the country's retailers.

Industrial insiders estimate that combined retail sales just in Nanning - capital of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in South China - will soar 40 per cent during this year's May Day holidays.

"Business has been brisk since this morning," said clothing store owner Chen Xue.

For others, the chance to rest is paramount.

"I'll stay in Beijing for a better rest. I am tired of the endless work travel," said Ge Tao, a local salesman, who cherishes the long holiday as a golden opportunity to take it easy.

"I can go to many places thanks to my work. Therefore, I don't have to join the hordes of tourists," Ge added.

For Wang Xikai, a civil servant in the capital, May Day is time to get out of the city and discover his country.

He and his family are planning to visit the famed Shaolin Temple in Mount Songshan, the ancient cities Kaifeng and Luoyang in Central China's Henan Province.

"My 5-year-old daughter is eager to take the sleeper on the train. She is curious about lying on a moving bed," Wang said.

Short breaks at nearby destinations such as country parks or countryside resorts are also proving popular.

"About seven calls in every 10 are asking for a two-day package tour," said Wang Yanhong, a travel service employee.

But only those who have planned in advance find themselves heading out of the suburbs to the country, Wang said. "Only reservations in advance of two weeks could guarantee the trip. Others just have to try their luck when booking," she added.

Some white-collar employees enjoy flexible working hours and have chosen to go into the office this week and holiday next, and so avoid the May Day getaway crush.

"The recent debate over hikes in ticket prices to visit scenic spots is also keeping people at home," said Liu Deqian, editor- in-chief of the 2005 issue "Green Book for Tourism in China."

Others would rather spend their money on buying or saving for a car or renovating their homes.

Li Mingde, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, claimed people are "more mature" in treating the week-long break as a time to relax rather than travel.

May Day used to be a one-day holiday until 1999, when the central government turned it into a seven-day break, three-day statutory holiday plus two weekends.

"Finding the right way to make yourself feel good and relaxed, no matter whether that is away somewhere or staying quietly at home with family and friends is becoming the mature way to spend this holiday," Li said.

He added that holidays are important in a modern society, such as the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and others.

"Enjoying more leisure time is an essential index in measuring human rights."

(China Daily 05/03/2005 page1)

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